Lately, my daughter who is almost 9, has had more and more questions about what separates her from her friends who are white. She has been called out as "brown" and "black" by other schoolmates and one time was even told by a friend that she could no longer be part of her circle because she wasn't white.
I'd like to protect her from these kinds of things forever but I know what the world is like. These are things I faced as a child myself, and time hasn't really erased those memories. The town I grew up in did not make it very easy for minorities to feel welcome - my family was called names like Dotheads, we had our home and business vandalized repeatedly, and we were given unwelcoming looks that would have made Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman feel practically like royalty in comparison to how we got treated.
I told my daughter of one story that I think is very funny though. When I was in high school, boys did not like me. Part of it was the stigma of dating an Indian girl, the other part was that I really wasn't all that cute in high school. But I was talking to a friend of mine who was flirting with me and finally I stopped him and said "Come on. You know I like you." And he got really serious and said, "Well, Kiran. You know, I could never date you because of what you are." And the first thing that genuinely came to my mind, without any malice was: "Wait. Why? Because I'm smarter than you?" The bell rang and I remember walking out of the cafeteria shaking my head, so confused. It was only later that I learned that he meant because I was Indian.
I'm proud though that even surrounded by so many external reasons to lack confidence, I had that much faith in who I was to know what defined me.
Skin color is a tricky thing. I wish it wasn't. I wish the world was color blind - but it isn't. What I do hope I can do, knowing from my own history is to teach my kids to love themselves and know what makes them intrinsically Nico and Shaila. It's not going to be how attractive people think they are or whether they fall on the right side of the color gradient that someone has defined.